Westport fire department reminds community about cold water safety

The department is reminding people even when the air is hot, water can be cold. Meadows said be prepared for the unexpected to prevent a dangerous situation.

Marissa Alter

Apr 12, 2024, 9:02 PM

Updated 36 days ago

Share:

With warmer days coming, the Westport Fire Department joined the National Weather Service to get the word out during Cold Water Safety Awareness Week.
It came a few weeks after 27 teenage rowers and two coaches with the Saugatuck Rowing Club had to be pulled from the frigid Long Island Sound. Their skulls capsized during bad weather on March 20, sending two people to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia. Police are still investigating what happened.
The cold water incident was the most recent for Westport fire, but department leaders said they're repeatedly called into action every spring.
“It seems like every year or so we have a bunch of rescues in the water, and I think a contributing factor is that people don't understand what cold water is and how quickly you can be in danger here in New England and the Long Island Sound,” Assistant Chief Brian Meadows told News 12.
So, the department is reminding people even when the air is hot, water can be cold. Meadows said be prepared for the unexpected to prevent a dangerous situation.
“Any water under 70 degrees we consider cold water, which is almost the full year,” Meadows explained. “You lose body heat a lot quicker when you're in the water versus air, like four times quicker.”
Fire officials used social media this week to post facts and additional resources for the community. One post stated, “Water temperatures typically don't rise above 50 degrees until early May, above 60 degrees until late May to early June, and above 70 degrees until July.”
Officials said those temperatures can lead to hypothermia and even cold water shock. Even experienced swimmers can quickly lose muscle control. That's why wearing a life jacket is so important.
Meadows also said another tip for boaters is to file a float plan, meaning let someone know where you're going and when you're expected back.
Plus, be weather aware. Know about the forecast because water conditions can quickly change. That’s what happened in last month’s rescue. Rowers told News 12 the water was “like glass” when they first headed out but turned increasingly choppy.
“What you may have at your house may not be what's down at the shore, especially when we get into the spring,” Meadows stated. “Enjoy yourself, but be smart about it.”


More from News 12